Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice!

imagesAt a time that stood in the shadow of notorious papal scandal and other church corruption, a time of great distrust of the church, a saint came along to who would change some of this. This man had a great desire to counter these feelings of suspicion and a lack of trust, and replace them with a love of the Lord. If you were walking around Rome in the 16th century you might have spied him, perhaps standing in a piazza or on a street corner. He might stand out because he was frequently seen wearing absolutely ridiculous clothing and sometimes with half of his beard shaved off. What a sight! It was in this way that St. Philip Neri helped to change the course of church history, and bring many souls to know Christ.

While Neri is known for his extraordinary evangelizing, it was this offbeat approach that helped change lives. By joyfully using his extraordinary sense of humor, St. Philip left a huge imprint upon the church and the world. All this was accomplished by Continue reading

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Glad Tidings – A reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

Helen Johnson embraces police officer William Stacy, after he helps her instead of arresting her.

Helen Johnson embraces police officer William Stacy, after he helps her instead of arresting her.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent – a day meant for rejoicing because the Lord is near.

At mass these words were proclaimed at the beginning of the First Reading: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted…” Isaiah 61:1-2

If you have not heard the story of Helen Johnson and police officer William Stacy, the link is right here. In a world full of seemingly bad news – death, destruction, devastation and more – we are given this story at a perfect moment. Who needs a homily? This is it.

As we make our way around the bend in the road that is the Third Sunday of Advent, we change our liturgical color from violet to rose, and we are reminded to rejoice. This rejoicing is our fuel as we watch and wait for the Lord. In our rejoicing however, it is important to remember just what glad tidings might mean.

San_Juan_Bautista_por_Joan_de_Joanes-1We start out with this word…. εὐαγγελίζω. What? OK, fair enough, Isiah would not have been speaking Greek, but if we transport ourselves to first century Palestine, the place where Jesus is about to be born, that is how we might hear “glad tidings.”  This is important in the context of today’s Gospel, in which John the Evangelist speaks to us about John the Baptist. Yes, the scraggly looking dude who ate locusts and honey, walking around the desert in a shmatte, was bringing εὐαγγελίζω. He foretold Jesus from before his birth and he did it in his adult life – and most people did not pay attention. Many of us may believe, with all good intentions, that we would certainly notice Jesus, but do we?
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Third Sunday of Advent – The Desert Blooms and We Meet Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and we light the pink or rose candle, marking Gaudete Sunday. This is a day of rejoicing!  It is also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. What do the story of blooming in the desert and Our Lady of Guadalupe have to do with one another? Well, in another scriptural theme for this week – be patient!

In our first reading, from Isaiah, we hear about how the desert will blossom and burst into life! New life will come springing forth, where no life could exist from all appearances. What a thought!

Here in the northeast, in upstate New York, although the soil can be sandy, we don’t live in a desert. The desert appears barren, sparse, devoid of life, but it is not. Today I found this article about the desert in Qatar that says:

For a short period in the winter, rain brings the Qatar desert to life. After one of these rains, France Gillespie, author of Discovering Qatar, takes a walk in the desert to explore the plants and animals that inhabit this normally barren place.

It’s amazing, the difference a drop of rain can make. Almost overnight, it seems, the desert springs to life.  Millions of seeds have been lying dormant, waiting to be triggered into action, and the plants that soldier on all the year round: the gnarled, camel-chewed bushes of Desert Thorn [Lycium shawii] and the dusty, Zygophyllum qatarensis, with its salty-tasting fleshy lobes, found all over Qatar, have suddenly sprouted new growth.

It is amazing – right out of the parched sand, comes such vibrant growth!  That is exactly what Isaiah was talking about – literally. More than literally however, we are given a glimpse of God’s promise for us, truly life where there was just a barren desert. What hope we have, what joy.

So now you may be wondering, what all this has to do with either the Gospel from today or where Our Lady of Guadalupe comes in…  As St. James told us in that second reading, be patient!

In today’s Gospel, we hear once again about John as the prophet, the precursor to Jesus. Who announces the Lord is important too.

In 1531, Juan Diego was a humble man, minding his own business when he encountered such an “announcement.” He heard birds singing, he heard his name called out. Who was looking for him? It was Our Lady of Guadalupe, but he did not quiet know or understand just who that was yet! Out of the ordinary landscape bloomed a beautiful woman, with an important message. This message, like a bloom in the desert, would stand out and change everything.

What was once barren, would bring forth life. You see, the local people, by and large, did not have much of an interest in converting to the Catholic religion. And who could blame them? The messages coming to them were not compelling them and you have to wonder just how they were treated by their colonial masters.

However, that was about to change.

Well the rest of the story gets us to the point where flowers bloom on top of Tepeyac hill, in December. These bright and fragrant roses grew where no growth was. Juan Diego, following Our Lady’s instructions, took them to the Bishop. Of course, the roses were placed and wrapped in Juan’s simple tilma and it was the opening of the tilma that revealed the image that is with us to this day. This changed many things – including how the indigenous people came to see the Catholic church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was announcing the coming of the Lord into the hearts of many, not unlike John the Baptist did so many years before.

The dew, the rain in our own lives is grace and what might spring forth is as rich as the bloom in the desert. God brings us this new life and we round this joyful corner that the Third Sunday of Advent marks.